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CMO calls for DNA testing for UK cancer patients

The average cancer patient in the UK must go through something of a ‘diagnostic odyssey’ before finally receiving the treatment they need.

This is the opinion of Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies, who, in her annual report, has emphasised the need for an NHS endorsement of widespread DNA testing. The process is simple and requires nothing more than a small saliva sample, but Davies claims this quick check could save countless lives through more accurate diagnoses, giving medical professionals more time to treat patients.

Currently, the process for testing is costly, at around £600 each time. However, Davies’ report, “Generation Genome”, showed that if brought under a centralised system this is a measure that could be not only hugely beneficial but affordable too. Patients would also be urged to allow the use of their genetic data for further analysis and clinical trials, opening the door to new breakthroughs within the field of cancer research.

The need for DNA testing in cancer treatment is a campaign backed up across the board – medical professionals, health secretary Jeremy Hunt and cancer charities have all stated that this is a matter of urgency. Cancer Research UK estimates that up to 10,000 lives could be saved each year with earlier diagnosis. Sir Harpal Kumar, the charity’s UK chief executive, responded to the report, stating that “further understanding and application of genomics will be essential to successfully tackling cancer.”

The evidence for this is indisputable, and the genetic screening of patients is an essential tool looking forward to the future of cancer treatment not just within the UK, but worldwide.

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